Kaylebuh crouched beside Cap’n Leweston, eyes round, staring over the rail at what was left of the barracoon. The tinder dry buildings had evaporated in the flames except for the drinkin’ bar, the sex bar and the sleepin’ sitcheeashun, which had been better built, showed a still smoking beam or two. I served joh in that very sitcheeashun.
The armoury had vanished completely, save for a blasted hole in the ground, also smoking. Them inky blacks were doing some kind o’ ritual over a line of graves dug in the sand, as were them candle-pale blondies.
Two bodies hung from the yard of the biggest rowin’ ship. “S’ Bubbeh, n’ Eeruy,” the First Mate whispered. Those two had been the closest to leaders for the settlement, with three ships apiece.
There was an odd scaffolding on the beach and a bunch o’ the blondies were dragging a Fehinnan over to it. “Sheeit,” someone in the boat whispered. “I’d heard these blondies boogered people when they beat ‘em. That’s Layyon.”
The man was naked, and they lashed his ankles to the bottom spars of the scaffolding, spreading his legs wide. One of the sailors began a prayer to the God-King as they bent him over the bar at the waist and lashed his wrists up over his head.
Kaylebuh swallowed hard, but then, instead of raping him they read off something from a fancy paper, and laid thirty-one lashes on him… with a wicked, lamb-hoofed whip, an’ cut him loose to fall on his face.
“Kaylebuh… you can find out what is going to happen to us?” Cap’n Leweston said huskily. “We… surrendered.”
“Aye kin do that.” Kaylebuh levered himself up onto the sail-spar holding their boat suspended between the main hull and one of the outer hulls, and an armed sailor waved a long knife at him, gesturing him to go back. He waved and set his hands together… then mimicked their prayer gesture with one hand to a temple, bowing.
There was some talk and they went and fetched the gal. She’d gotten the brown baby back for some reason, and called ‘What do you want, Kaylebuh?” Dandlin’ the lurvae on her hip like it her own.
“I’m not a slave no more am I?” He slapped a hand over his mouth. He’d been intending to inquire for Cap’n Leweston.
“No.” She turned to the guard and he beckoned with the same wicked blade. “Din’t Leweston tell y’all? We thought you’d choiced.”
“No’mum.” He scrambled to the deck. “They wondering what’ll happen now…”
“They saw the flogging?”
“Thought they was goin’ta … um… don’t know how to say it polite.”
She looked him up and down as if he were made of nose-snot and dog-shit. “Our Imperator don’t like it. Some still do. T’Admiral made one o’ them…” she jerked her chin up at the hanging bodies. “… serve him… he pulled a weapon in parley, injured him with a bang that half deafened everyone.”
“Pro’lly trying tah scare the savages,” Kaylebuh said. “But y’all ain’t savages.”
“No. We fought your ‘hand-carron’ armed guys, took ‘em down when they ran out o’ balls, wi… wi…’” She waved her hands. “Don’t know the Fehinnan fer it. Gave ‘em a dirt nap.”
Kaylebuh was silent. He let his eye travel over the gloved and armoured troops, the ship that had caught the Dixabelle, the gliders spiraling away into the sky, as the anchor went into the sea with a splash, looked back over his shoulder at the boat where his former master sat. They say I free. What ever shall I do now?
“Missy, ah do apologize fer any offence I may hev’ given yeh,” The dog-shit look went away a little. “But y’all mind iffen I stay wi’ y’all?”
“You’d hev’ta ask tah stay here… s’military… but iffen you’re not gonna snoop an y’all need tah learn tah be free… ask Cap’n Filarias. I’m gonna be lookin’ fer mah mammy, since y’all kilt mah pappy… n’ stayin’ w’ Dimae’s Hound tah translate.” She shifted the baby to her other hip. “I don’ like yah, yah hitten me, but you kin teach me better Fehinnan.”
“Yas, Missy.” He bowed, nervously, looking at the Layyon lyin’ all bloody on the beach, ‘n the bodies swingin’ above.
“I’m not yer new owner, y’ijit!” She snapped. “I’m gonna be teachin’ y’all fessas Arkan.”
“Yas, Missy.” This time Kaylebuh didn’t bow. “Ay’ll let Leweston know that what Cap’n Filarias said, goes and not tah worry he’s gonna get a spear-fishing pole up his… um… never mind.”
She twitched a smile. “Y’all don’ know how lucky y’all are.”